Most passenger cars were lettered with the railroad name or company along the - you guessed it - letterboard. "Great Northern", "Northern Pacific", "Union Pacific", "Canadian Pacific", or even "Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern" are documented in period photos. Coach 218 operated on a railroad jointly owned by the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern called the Spokane, Portland and Seattle. Fortunately, a photograph held in the collections of the Oregon Historical Society revealed what that looked like in 1912. Paint sample found along the edges of moldings allowed an accurate color match too.
Lettering in era it was built was usually gold leaf, which were actual thin sheets of gold attached to the side of the car with an adhesive. Gold leaf could have been applied to the 218, but it is a skill set not resident at the Northwest Railway Museum. Fortunately, modern metallic paint can give an appearance very similar to gold leaf by using a paint mask over a pre-painted metallic gold surface. So the artisans in the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center were able to create the stencils and paint mask required to reproduce that look, and earlier this fall the lettering made its first appearance.
You can visit and RIDE on coach 218 at the Northwest Railway Museum . Your next opportunity are the Halloween Steam Train rides on October 25 and 26. See you there!